Interesting to read last week about the plans to expand the White Rose retail park in south Leeds.
Developer Land Securities is going to submit a planning application before the end of the year to add a multi-screen cinema, restaurants and cafes, some new shops and bigger and better Debenhams and Primark stores.
All in all they’re looking for permission for an additional 120,000 sq ft of retail space and 65,000 sq ft of leisure space. If it gets approval, the expansion could mean hundreds of new jobs, the developers say.
If it gets approval.
Why shouldn’t it get approval?
Well, regular readers of these pages may recall that just over a year ago there was a heated row going on in the world of Leeds retail about this very topic – the possible future expansion of White Rose.
Unless there’s been some “gentlemen’s agreement” during the past 13 months that’s resolved matters behind closed doors, the row looks set to reignite when Land Securities submit their planning application.
Here’s what caused the bother then – and could well cause bother in the months ahead.
“No case” for additional White Rose development
Back in July 2010 Leeds City Council commissioned consultants Colliers International to write a report on retail in Leeds, looking at current and future capacity and projecting “future retail need”.
A year later the report delivered its conclusions, amongst which was the verdict that there was “no case for supporting additional development at White Rose”.
Land Securities were understandably pretty miffed. So miffed as to make it clear in a letter to Council leader Keith Wakefield that there would be consequences if the report got published.
But the report did get published. (Which is just as well, given that it won’t have come cheap – it’s 150 pages long, with 41 appendices, and was partly based on a specially commissioned household survey). It’s got a section of its very own on the council’s website.
What’s got me baffled now is: given the report’s findings, why do Land Securities believe their forthcoming planning application to expand White Rose stands any chance of success?
Reasons against White Rose expansion
There were several reasons why Colliers came out against further development at White Rose, among them the negative impact that might be felt by the Eastgate scheme in Leeds, the stalled Westfield development in Bradford and Trinity Walk in Wakefield, which hadn’t been open long when the report was being written.
The report noted that White Rose was drawing significant trade from adjoining districts like Kirklees, Wakefield, Calderdale and Bradford, and went on (my bold highlighting):
“The household survey indicates the success of the development (White Rose) both commercially and in providing a quality of offer that shoppers seek.
“However, the extent to which this may have discouraged or delayed significant development primarily in the main other cities and towns of the Leeds hinterland but also in Leeds’ own town centres can only now be a matter of speculation.
“Given national guidance and the general strategy within Leeds, however, there is no prima facie planning case either to protect the position of White Rose or to encourage its further development.
“Consequently, the capacity for additional floorspace which the market share approach apportions on first principles to White Rose, would more appropriately, in terms of planning strategy, be apportioned to those centres which historically have served those areas from where White Rose trade is drawn, both within and beyond Leeds…
“The market share of the White Rose has emerged over a relatively short period of time, and over a period when major developments underpinning the strategies of a number of local planning authorities in their development plans have stalled.
“It is clearly appropriate to ensure and await the delivery and consolidation of such schemes, such as Trinity Walk, Wakefield and the Leeds City Centre developments.”
So what, if anything, has changed since the report was written? Anything that might favour the White Rose case?
No much on the face of it, apart from the possibility that Trinity Walk in Wakefield may have clawed some trade back from White Rose over the past year.
In Bradford, however, there’s still no sign of a start date to fill in the Westfield “hole”. On the 9th anniversary of planning permission being given, they’re still looking for more stores to commit to the scheme. And it’s difficult to see how a bigger, better White Rose will help that effort. (You may say that that’s none of Leeds business, but a bit of solidarity might not go amiss)
As far as developments in Leeds city centre that may be impacted by an expansion of White Rose, Land Securities’ very own Trinity shopping and leisure development is now set to open on 21 March next year, but rival developer Hammerson’s Eastgate project is still over three years away from “delivery”, let alone “consolidation”.
No “major new developments” before 2016, says rival
So, if the report carries any weight with the council a year after its publication, things are not looking too promising for the White Rose plans. Especially if Hammerson feel as strongly about the whole matter as they did a year ago.
When the consultants’ report appeared in draft last year, Hammerson were (surprise!) emphatic in their support of the findings with regard to White Rose.
They wrote to the council too, saying that:
“Hammerson is … extremely concerned that the (consultants’) Study should give no encouragement for further large scale retail schemes in non-central locations and in particular the further expansion of White Rose.
“Given the importance of the Eastgate scheme to Leeds city centre and the wider benefits it would deliver, it is imperative that nothing should prejudice that scheme coming forward.
“The Study and the subsequent planning policy formulation should make this position clear.
“Only when both Trinity and Eastgate have been delivered and the City Centre allowed to adjust and consolidate should any major new developments be considered and tested against the relevant planning policy in force at that time.
“This will not be before 2016, and is unlikely to be in out-of-centre locations. Both the Study and future planning policy should be explicit in this regard.”
Now today the rumours have been confirmed that Hammerson have added the Victoria Quarter to their Leeds portfolio (how come we don’t have a local Competition Commission that looks at who controls how much of our city/region?).
The sale prompted this apt comment from The Business Desk Yorkshire‘s editor Ian Briggs:
Seconds out! Round two!